By Martin Overbjerg, Business Development Manager, District Energy, Frese A/S
– an IoT journey that has only just begun
The future is service based. A point that major software developers have been aware of for some time, and a principle which several of them have now built their business models on. Microsoft has done it with their Office package, Adobe with Creative Cloud. The concept is Software as a Service (SAAS). And, as consumers, we have gotten used to that concept. But in the district energy sector it is a fairly new mindset. Historically, the industry that supports district energy has delivered components such as pipes, valves and pumps. Quality components that the customer bought and then owned and maintained.
Frese thus began a journey from hardcore manufacturer of brass components to future service provider. An IoT journey towards delivering remote flow control as a service. The development of the Flowguard had begun. TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION – ON BATTERIES? The basis for the new IoT component was already in place: A 2nd generation pressure independent control valve, which regulates flow and temperature in heating and cooling applications and combines an externally adjustable automatic balancing valve, a differential pressure control valve and a full authority modulating control valve in one compact valve housing.
But two years ago, an opportunity presented itself.
CUSTOMER DRIVEN INNOVATION A customer, Naestved District Heating Company, had a need for a battery-operated valve solution, which would allow them to remotely monitor, operate and shut down the flow in individual heat interface units. The solution should be independent of the customer’s electrical and internet installations and should not depend on a SIM card and must be retrofitted into existing heat interface units. The main purpose was to be able to not only monitor, but also operate the valves right down to household level, remotely, thereby saving district energy operators man-hours in daily operations or in case of interruptions. Target installations would primarily be apartment blocks with several apartments and HIUs (heat interface units), where tenants are required to be present when technicians arrive to check and adjust the valve. With an IoT (Internet of Things) solution, neither tenant nor technician needs to be in the vicinity of the HIU, if adjustments are necessary. This saves money and improves customer service. The solution also needed to be low-cost and easy to install, given the number of individual HIU’s that a district energy operator like Naestved Fjernvarme (Naestved District Heating Company) owns.
With an IoT Bypass solution, district energy operators can monitor pressure and reduce unnecessary heat loss in their network, and thereby save energy.
While remote monitoring was already a well-known technology found in heat meters, which provide district heating companies with information but cannot perform an active task, it would be necessary to establish two-way communication in order to actually operate the valves remotely. The required independence of internet connections and mobile phone technology meant that an alternative solution had to be found, but the biggest challenge was to make the component battery operated, and, above all, to ensure long battery life.
D I S T R I CT ENERGY - SUS TA I NAB L E C I T Y T RANS FORMAT I ON
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